27 January 2011

Tweed of My Ancestors: Some Thoughts on Vintage Clothing

I may wear the clothes of a dead man, but I feel like a chap with a new lease on life. Do you understand? I am an advocate of dead man's clothes: vintage clothing, or classic used clothing, in other words the kind of smelly Tweed, musty flannel, and mouldy brogue that remind one of one's wonderful London youth. Invigorating!

As previously disclosed, I used to visit Kensington Market and Camden Town in the 1980s on a quite frequent basis, where I picked up old Tweed jackets and battered brogues from Lobb, amongst other things. There's nothing quite like the spectacle of a skinny, floppy-haired 17-year old boy trying to look 77. What was I thinking?

We often paired our Tweed and brogues with old Levi 501s, probably inspired by Nick Kamen adverts, which somewhat lessened the fogey chic aspect and added a certain street edge. My chums were interested in used 501s, invariably torn and frayed in strategic locations, but stained denim was for me a step too far. In New York we would troll vintage shops downtown, where the selection was comparatively poor, and where old army greatcoats and punk hairstyles briefly became the rage, but eventually my passion for hunting rare books eclipsed my interest in old clothes.

The market for vintage clothing is still going strong. In the present economic environment vintage makes sense. I do discern a reluctance on the part of some, borne, I think, of middle class snobbishness or hygiene concerns. It should not matter, but it does. More for the aficionados, I suppose. The online marketplace eBay, if you have not heard of it, is a wonderful source for vintage items, as are specialists such as Hornets of Kensington and Savvy Row, both of whom have websites with lip-smacking photos of Tweed, chalk stripe, and evening wear. David Saxby's Old Hat is another gem. If you know of others, please do let me know at once.

We live in a system where clothing--and ultimately human beings themselves--are dispensable, replaceable, and interchangeable. Nothing has lasting value, and nothing is valuable in and of itself, worthy of preservation. After all, we can always buy more cheap consumer shit from China, or import more "Americans" and "Europeans" from the third world. It's an unsustainable arrangement. Buying vintage classic clothing not only reduces waste, but in a small way, I think, it also pays tribute to the craftsmanship and values of our people, those who came before us, our ancestors. And who knows? Perhaps one day our own national-domestic industries will be revived, and we can walk hand-in-hand together again, in our own land, through glorious fields of Tweed.

Photograph: © Hornets

12 comments:

vir beātum said...

Hear hear. Tweed, like a good guitar, needs to have lived a generation before it's really any good. I've found the thrifty opportunities of Montreal to be particularly good, Boston less so, and Berlin less still. But my eyes are always open.

Jeremy Hackett is a big charity-shop shopper, by the way. I understand why. I wouldn't pay his prices either.
VB

Anonymous said...

Hear Hear!

OldSchool said...

When you're next in Hamburg, visit Rudolf Beaufays, the best source of second-hand classic English clothing that I have ever seen:

http://www.rudolf-beaufays.de/store.html

Ford said...

Well said my good man. A closet not overstuffed with tweed is like a week without sunshine, droll and disheartening.

Tabitha said...

Two words: Adorn me!
Or the tweed gets it...

Old and fat and in the way said...

Bookster also has a good selection of vintage suits and coats, as well as their made to measure line.

Barima said...

This reminds me; it's time I completed my Vintage Post

I had to pass on a well preserved Nutter's of Savile Row suit last week for making me resemble a Thom Browne character. But Central London's charity shops do proffer a gem, now and then

I hear all the great finds are in Los Angeles and San Francisco

B

A.E.F. said...

Admiral, you're quite right- the main reason I wear so much vintage is because nowadays it is rare to find the quality and craftsmanship of even a mass produced item from say the 1950s, outside of modern couture, which even I can rarely afford.

Cyprian Korzeniowski said...

Admiral ~ I like the idea of tweed with a street edge. It sounds like what one would wear when confronting the bezonian hordes which infest any given city of the West.

Schnee-Eule said...

I wear vintage because I don't want to be merely fashionable; I prefer to be stylish and demonstrate some time honoured values which as you rightly point out are lacking in the modern age.

Daniel-Halifax said...

It makes me sad to think of cloths as unlasting as they are. I rarely get rid of things because I usually pay a little more but buy a little less. It pains me though, when I spend a lot on something that I expect to last and doesn't.

I've found Bobby of Boston in Boston recently which has an amazing selection for pretty good prices!

Trailer Trad said...

Great observations!